In this exclusive interview with TOI Books, Swami Mukunananda tells us about his new book, the importance of mind management and success mantras especially for aspiring writers. Excerpts:
1. How important is mind management for people, especially now considering the pandemic?
I once saw an unforgettable scene on television. During the devastating floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, a lady whose house had been washed away was being interviewed. Rather than sobbing, unlike others before her, she was thanking God. On being asked by the interviewer how she could be happy in such a situation, she replied, “The house can always be built again. But my husband and children are safe. I am grateful for what I have.” This was an example of managing one’s mind, to choose happy thoughts, in the face of dreary circumstances.
Most people do the reverse. Even in the midst of comfort and luxury, they feel unhappy. The reason is they have not learnt to choose their emotions well. Since their mind is astray, it robs them of joy and drags them into a cesspool of miserable thoughts. Examples of this are all around us– from the Bollywood industry to Dalal Street. That is why it is so important to learn the science of mind management. If we train our mind properly, it will become our biggest resource for optimism, happiness, and determination. We will then be able to courageously face adverse situations—like the present pandemic—and yet remain joyous and inspired within.
2. You mention in the book how illness is caused not only by viruses and bacteria but also by the negativities the mind harbours. Please tell our readers more about it.
We all have first-hand experiences of emotions that lift our blood pressure and make our heart race fast. Likewise, there are times when we are mentally stressed– it in turn lowered our immunity, and (sometimes) we catch cold. These are simple examples of the connection between our mind and body. Over long periods, the negative emotions we harbour have disastrous effects on our health. They poison our blood, damage our organs, and weaken our life force (prana).
Half a century ago, if anyone claimed negative thoughts could cause physical afflictions, the medical profession would have rejected the idea as heresy. But in recent times, various studies have established the correlation between our emotional state and physical wellbeing. In fact, the Harvard Medical School offers a full course on Mind-Body Medicine, including cures for ailments through meditation and positive psychology.
Interestingly, thousands of years ago, Indians were already aware of this phenomenon. An ancient scripture, the Yoga Vasishtha states, “Many diseases begin in the mind. When we nurture poisonous thoughts, our manomaya kosha (mental sheath) gets disturbed. This, in turn, agitates the pranamaya kosha (vital energy sheath). That manifests in the annamaya kosha (physical body) as disease.”
3. In one of the chapters in the book, you have written about the power of positive affirmations and self-talk. What, according to you, are some of the ways in which people can control their minds to succeed in difficult times?
We are all cognizant of the negative emotions in our conscious mind. However, we do not realize that 90 percent of them originate from the subconscious area of our psyche, of which we are not directly aware. This subconscious mind of ours cannot reason logically; it simply believes what we tell it most often. It then arouses sentiments and feelings, based on the way we have conditioned it, without considering whether they are beneficial for us or not. We must, therefore, be exceedingly careful about how we condition it.
Self-talk is our internal dialogue—the way we talk to ourselves. It is vitally important because it programs our subconscious. Negative self-talk can program our inner psyche to become our own worst enemy—the tormentor in the head that incessantly punishes us with pessimistic messages. Conversely, positive affirmations can program it to create mindsets of hope and optimism, and thereby make the subconscious our best friend.
Here are some positive affirmations we can try for developing positivity and optimism:
· “The universe has a great plan for me.”
· “Whatever happens will be for the good.”
· “Every cell in my body is sparkling with bliss and joy.”
· “There is abundance in Creation, and I will always have enough.”
4. It is said it takes 21-days to build a habit but unfortunately, for many of us though we would have the right intentions to do something new or have a new good habit we are unable to sustain it in the long run. Could you please share some tips to achieve our goals in such situations?
Compare habit formation to launching a rocket into space. The rocket consumes maximum fuel during the initial period of its take-off, while breaking through the gravitational pull of the Earth. Subsequently, on reaching escape velocity, it proceeds on its own.
In the same way, when we wish to break the gravitational pull of old habits, at first, we must expend a huge amount of willpower. Then, slowly, the momentum will build up. In this process, the initial phase—to abstain from the bad behaviour and engage in the good one—is the toughest part. This is where most people lose heart and give up.
To develop the strength to persevere, we must convince ourselves about the immense benefit that will accrue from the new habit, and the awful loss we will suffer from not changing the old one. This will instil us with inspiration to endure until the goal is reached.
Secondly, consistency in practice is of paramount importance. It is similar to kindling firewood to produce a blaze. When two pieces of firewood are rubbed against each other, they get lit. The condition, however, is that they must be rubbed without a break. Else, the wood will wear off but not ignite.
Similarly, the formation of habits requires daily practice. If we omit it for even a day, the impact of repetition gets broken. And if we skip a few times, the habit is never formed. In establishing good habits, therefore, let us apply ourselves with regularity and tenacity. They are small austerities for the reward of a lifetime of peace and contentment.
5. Your new book is full of profound knowledge—like the Chicken Soup, but for the mind. How long did it take for you to write this book? Did you face any writer’s block and how did you deal with it?
The idea of “Mind Management” came as the theme for a lecture series. I was scheduled to visit the US for conducting weeklong programs in 20 cities around the country, and I needed an attractive topic for the discourses. Once the topic had been publicised, however, the writer’s block attacked me as the speaker’s block, and I struggled to create content for the talks.
After delivering the set of seven talks in one city, I would observe people’s reactions to each topic, and then hone my content for the next city. Consequently, by the end of the countrywide tour, the entire series was ironed out in my head. Thereafter, it took only two months to put it down as a book.
6. What are your mind management tips especially for aspiring writers, who sometimes have to face multiple rejections before their first book is finally published?No matter what our profession, we will inevitably encounter failure on the way to success. The reason being that we are all worse before we get better. Therefore, how we handle rejection is far more important than how we treat victory.
Unfortunately, the marketing world loves to feed us with stories of people who achieved instant success and transformed their lives overnight. But these stories are misleading. They encourage the ‘lottery mentality,’ whereby people pin their hopes on winning the jackpot one day. They forget that success is a journey we must undertake one step at a time.
What really counts is that we keep growing and improving with every attempt. As the saying goes, “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.” My advice to writers who get rejected is to remember not to take failure as final. Simply learn the lessons therein for self-improvement and move on.
.(tagsToTranslate)The Science of Mind Management(t)Swami Mukundananda(t)swami mukunananda(t)mind-body medicine(t)Harvard University